If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably already seen one or two "live stories" about it in June: Today is about the night from June 25 to June 26, 2019, when Christina and I witnessed a truly epic night sky on Iceland. That's why I'm dedicating a blog post to this night.
The evening was off to a good start. After we had rested again in the afternoon for the nightly photo session, we drove after a good dinner in the "Hali Country" around 8 p.m. to the glacier lagoon, at which we had already arrived the day before.
The weather forecast was rather bad for landscape photography: No clouds were predicted. Well, since we also had super telephoto lenses with us, we drove to the seals of a sandbank where they were already cavorting the day before.
Already during these photo sessions very thin veils and later even thin cloud bands formed in the actually cloudless sky:
But looking at the predictions, I was sure that they would dissolve -like thermal clouds- with the disappearance of the sun. But they didn't… I'm a lousy meteorologist!
These cloud bands began to colour gradually and began to form a beautiful vanishing point. At about 10 p.m. (about one and a half hours before sunset) we decided to catch the beautiful clouds on the opposite ice beach and switch to landscape photography.
A good decision: what followed was a five-hour spectacle in the sky. Exactly in every direction, 360°. Roughly speaking, this "firework" ignited in five phases 😉
Phase 1: „The warm up“
Between 10 and 11 p.m. the cloud bands became denser and denser and gained more and more colour. At the beginning the scenery was still illuminated by the sun:
In the course of this hour the landscape took on an ever warmer, yellowish light:
Then this colouring gave way to the first magenta tones:
The colour contrasts on the spot were fascinating in this direction (south-east, thus "offshore").
Phase 2: „Lenticu-what?“
From around 11 p.m. onwards, the highlight of the night became increasingly clear: a huge "Lenticularis" cloud. These clouds can stand in one place in strong winds over high mountains; the air simply flows through them. At first, this cloud was very narrow with a low coloration, but it already looked fascinating:
I had always wished I could see this cloud form. I wouldn't have dared to dream that it would be such a beautiful form. In spite of the storm in the whole area (strangely enough not around this beach) she hung almost nailed up above the bright night sky and only changed shape and colour, but not position.
Christina was also absolutely fascinated by the spectacle of heaven 😉.
A good picture of this scenery was quite difficult to realize, because the cloud was not oriented towards the sea (southeast), but diagonally towards the land (west).
In addition, there were extremely few ice blocks on the beach this time. I have never seen so little ice in the 16 days I have spent on this beach in the last four years. The morning before we even looked for an alternative spot, because there was no ice at all on the beach!
During the night there were smaller blocks of ice in a beach section of just 200 metres. Thus, in order to photograph the sea including the waves with this cloud, one had to stand with the back to the sea and stand behind the ice blocks in the surf zone. Surprisingly, nobody did that in prime time - a maniac was found, though. Guess who 😉.
The session was therefore very exhausting. Wait for the big wave, run behind the ice blocks, knock the tripod into the sand, align, release the shutter, run away again - and again and again. After setting up the tripod and rolling on the next big wave, it took about 5-20 seconds before I had to get back to safety quickly. But since the ice beach is my favourite motive and the other photographers already filled the inside of the lagoon, it was worth it for me.
The most violent structure of this cloud was around midnight. I have been able to realize some scenes of it and selected the following picture for you - that was simply impressive! Christina stood next to me, saw this cloud and only commented "Dracarys!" 😉
Phase 3: The middle of the night
Around 0.20 a.m. the colour intensity went back to the west, we decided to change to the glacier lagoon, where we wanted to photograph the still shining northern sky. Here the clouds radiated ring-shaped, like classic "foehn" clouds. A splendid sky!
I had a hard time finding a foreground composition and in the end I was only convinced by the following scene – so there's only one proof photo from this phase 😉, for which I stood quite deep in the ice water (the rubber boots were already full of water anyway...).
Around 1.00 a.m. this part of the sky seemed to be wearing off and after many hours of intensive photography we needed a break. So we went to the hotel. The plan was to drive back to the beach around 2.00 a.m., where the sun would rise around 2.30 a.m.
Hardly arrived at the hotel (about 15 minutes driving time) we looked out of the window and the sky was colorful again. So, break canceled, drinks and sandwiches packed and off to the beach...
Phase 4: „Nobody believes me anyway 😉“
Arriving at the beach, extreme purple magenta tones appeared in southeast direction, as I had never seen them before. #nofilter.
I didn't really know which direction to concentrate on.
The lilac went back for a short time, the colours were still remarkable...
Phase 5: „At sunrise“
It became brighter and brighter and towards the west it looked as if the huge lenticularis cloud had been drawn out. Despite the brightness, the rising sun once again intensified the color on this cloud.
A view to the left, northeast, also showed smaller lenticularis clouds, which were just as beautiful to look at:
Shortly after sunrise, before 3 a.m., the first rays of the sun lit up the very high cloud layers in a violent orange shade. I have never seen this intensity before. With these last two pictures I would like to give an impression of these conditions.
It started slowly, but pay attention to the wonderful color mixture:
And with my last picture I would like to show you this fascinating finale:
After 3.15 a.m. the clouds slowly became whiter and whiter and we ended this incredible photo session. Around 4 a.m. we arrived at the hotel and fell asleep with a big smile.
I could not capture all colours and forms of this night, because I had to commit myself again and again for a longer time to certain cardinal points, in order to find and arrange interesting foregrounds. Above all, I would have liked to get pictures with more focal length and captured some details, shot videos etc., but you can't have everything 😉
I hope that the pictures will give you a good impression of what we experienced in this special night. This spectacle of nature we will not forget.